Roadway Oak Trees Raise Concerns of Safety

Tall, aging oak trees, have some residents concerned about driving along Shirk Road between Walnut Ave. and Highway 198.

Tony Esteves said he travels on Shirk several times a week, and that his son drives it daily and he has concerns about roadway safety.

Esteves recalled when a few years back a friend was driving near the Coast. Similarly, trees overhung the roadway, a branch fell, and his friend’s vehicle was struck.

“The branch just fell and it killed him right away,” Esteves said.

The area Esteves refers to on Shirk Road, is technically Tulare County, between Visalia city limits. As such, the county has an agreement with the city, that the city maintains that portion of the roadway, said Area 3 Supervisor Amy Shuklian. Shuklian stated that she had talked with county staff, who in turn would speak with Visalia’s public works staff regarding concerns expressed to the Valley Voice.

“Both sides of Shirk in that area are a county island, and not within the city,” said Jeff Fultz, Visalia Parks and Urban Forestry manager.

There is indeed an agreement for the city to “maintain the asphalt roadway from Walnut to 198,” he said. This includes tree maintenance over the roadway, up to a height of 14 feet.

They are privately-owned trees, he said, and actually belong to the property owner, not the county. The city, through its agreement with the county, has the right to, and does, maintain the trees with regard to the roadway, he said. It also has the right to properly trim or remove any hazard beyond the 14-foot high trimming limit.

In order, to more intensely prune or even remove any trees, the county would have to work in cooperation with the property owner.

The oak trees are dormant right now, Fultz said, which could give an impression that they are no longer viable. But, they will come back with green growth, as they do year to year.

The problem lies, he added, that you never know when a branch, or entire tree, may fall.

“We’ve seen perfectly healthy trees fall over the next day,” he said. “You see trees [overhang roadways] all over the place, such as Old Creek Road into Cayucos.”

Still, Esteves is concerned. Some of the trees are along a ditch, he said, expressing concerns about the root systems.

“I use Shirk a lot to go to 198 and my son uses it every day,” he said. “That scares me so much – every time I go through there.”

Concerned citizens, who site potential problems on any roadway, should call the county or city public works department and/or their supervisor, or a council member of the city where they see the problem.

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